Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) has introduced a bill that would require broadcasters to submit their political files to the FCC in machine-readable format.
That is something public advocacy groups have called on the FCC to do, most recently in an abbreviated Hill hearing on the FCC's media ownership rules in the House Communications Subcommittee last week.
The FCC requires broadcasters to upload their political files—paperwork on political ad buys—to an FCC database, but they can, and many do, upload PDFs of typed and sometimes handwritten information.
At that hearing last week, Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause gave the FCC credit for putting those TV station political files online, but said it should boost the requirement and make it a searchable and machine readable database, rather than letting stations upload scanned PDFs of handwritten "scrawl."
The Campaign Legal Center, which monitors the political files and has been pushing the FCC and/or Congress to beef up on-screen political ad funding disclosures, sent a letter to Congress urging swift action on the bill, H.R. 4179, The Fair and Clear Campaign Transparent Act, or FCC Transparency Act for short, given the approaching 2016 presidential election.
CLC is definitely on the same, difficult to read, page as O'Boyle. "Currently, broadcasters are uploading in pdf format whatever paper documents would have been placed in the public file," the group said. "Every station keeps its records somewhat differently. As a result, the current database is difficult to navigate and does not permit the aggregation of spending by a particular campaign or outside group."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.